«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»
the same way as there exist definitive transhistorical rules within the revealed text (belief and practice) and constant effective causes (‘ilal) (that can be inferred) behind the interpretative latitude offered by speculative (zanni) ayat: the two Revelations require the intelligence to distinguish those two categories and carry out important analytical work in each of the two areas, in particular, to reach appropriate understanding
Following the above clarification, Ramadan prompts his readers to consider two possibilities. First, it is possible to rope together the ‘evidence’ presented independently by the two orders through the use of human intelligence in extracting - and later converging - their underlying meanings and rationales (Ramadan calls this the ‘why’ of things). This is precisely what the scholar means when he writes: ‘The two orders are not opposed, each of them completes the other, gives it meaning and perfects the path of knowledge by reconciling the “why” and the “how”, thus enlightening the mind and
understanding of how things work and why they matter from a religious perspective supposedly enable one to grasp the ultimate message of God. Second, as Ramadan argues that human history tends to repeat itself through recurring, invariant patterns of life and behavior (which is a phenomenon acknowledged by the Qur’an, and thus a common citation by Muslim scholars), it is possible to use discernible ‘constants and definitive principles’ to develop a reading grid through which scholars can understand the internal logic of the living world and subsequently anticipate the possible manners in which future cycles of life may present their complexities (Ramadan, 2009, p.97).
To contemplate further, one can identify two ultimate objectives to which both the roles of the Revelation and the universe seem to subscribe: Affirmation of ‘Truth’, and the protection of mankind’s interests and welfare. Observably, the Qur’an describes the universe in a frequent degree as an ‘open book’ that is ‘pervaded with ‘signs’ offered to people’s minds and hearts’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.86), as indicated, for example, by the verse: ‘Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding’ (Qur’an, 3:190). The scholar understands this verse to be a divine reference to the 'implicit correspondence between the two orders of the Revelation and the Universe' (Ramadan, 2009, p.88); hence, his deduction that the universe ‘invites it [human conscience] to ponder over its [the universe] natural and universal laws’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.93). Therefore, rather than restricting human reason, the Revelation allows the human mind to exercise autonomous creative thinking beyond the boundaries traditionally defined by classical scholars (Ramadan, 2004; 2009). Additionally, Ramadan observes that many Qur’anic verses appear to associate what is ‘good and natural’ for mankind with what is ‘lawful
that many classical scholars believe that the objectives of the creation of the universe (mainly the promotion of all that is good for mankind and the prevention of all that is harmful to them) are identical to those of the Revealed text (Ramadan, 2009, p.89).
Therefore, Ramadan believes that reading and understanding the two Books in parallel ‘should enable us to present higher objectives [objectives of Shari’a] in an original - and always open - way, involving most importantly, a new, more specialized, and more pragmatic relationship to reality’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.136).
5.3.2 Methodological Framework The practical aspects of Ramadan’s transformative reform are expressed principally in his idea of a global ethical reference that is intended to ‘regulate human action’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.146) and ‘orient and limit the use of [human] knowledge acquired’. In order to allow this ethical reference to be fully implemented, the scholar lays out several prerequisites that must be met (Ramadan, 2009). First, Muslim scholars need to reconsider the classical order and specifics of the sources of Islamic jurisprudence in order to accommodate other non-scriptural authorities for the formulation of universal laws and ethics. Second, Muslim scholars and specialists in the sciences must participate in equal collaboration in the establishment of higher objectives that can be used to orient their thoughts and productions. Third, Muslim scholars must be encouraged to develop a twofold specialization in both the study of revelation and at least one field of human sciences. These three prerequisites will be discussed in detail below.
framework of Islamic jurisprudence necessitates the restructuring of all pre-existing legal elements employed by classical Muslim jurists. While the sources of classical Islamic jurisprudence are generally structured into two main groups in terms of importance (the primary group consists of the Qur’an and Sunna and the secondary group comprises ijtihād and its manifestations), transformation reform requires creating two complementary canonical domains that must be approached in parallel with equal seriousness: Revelation (and all its subsumed legal elements), and the universe (all branches of studies that are designed to improve both the understanding of the complex universe and the progress of mankind). As both domains must maintain their own rules, principles, and characteristics, transformation reform requires the universe now to be ‘… considered in its own right as an autonomous complementary source of law and its elaboration’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.101), as opposed to being seen as a supplementary element used only to ‘shed additional light’ on the study of scriptural sources (Ramadan, 2009, p.83).
Second, as a consequence of rebalancing the theological importance of the Revelation with the universe, the exclusive authority of text scholars for elaborating legal and ethical rulings must now be shared equally with context scholars (Ramadan, 2009). The scholar envisions this as occurring in two steps: First, the two groups of experts must be allowed to formulate the higher objectives and aims needed to orient the norms and methods of their own respective fields; second, they each must share their reflections and contributions with the other (Ramadan, 2009). Here, Ramadan appears to be motivated by the need to address possible loopholes and deficiencies that may occur in the process of elaborating ethical rules and principles due to the fact that
broad fields of study. He also implies that contributions from scientists are crucial in preventing text scholars from making one-sided determinations of norms about 'complex, profound, and often interconnected issues' of which 'they only have relative or superficial, second-hand knowledge' (Ramadan, 2009, p.124). Having suggested this, the scholar insists that there have to be specific boundaries of prerogative for each of the two groups of scholars based on their specific areas of expertise and the nature of the
contexts within which they work. He writes:
‘Even though the fundamentals of belief ('aqîdah) and worship ('ibadât) obviously remain the prerogative of the fuqahâ' insofar as they are exclusively determined by the texts, this is not so for social, economic, and scientific issues for which an ethical reflection is only possible by relying on the knowledge of specialists, while respecting the autonomy of their practice and of their scientific methodologies when taking their expertise into account’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.121).
From this excerpt, it is apparent that the scholar acknowledges the unique methodologies of both the study of religion and the sciences; he warns against the inappropriate imposing of means (e.g., norms, principles, tools, and methodologies) that are characteristic of and intrinsic to one field on another. He believes that ‘only through such a global approach can different areas of knowledge truly be reconciled, by stipulating higher universal principles in the future and protecting the sciences’ autonomy… ’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.127). However, Ramadan also highlights that ‘the ethical reference may sometimes determine that some areas of knowledge or some techniques are useless, if not dangerous’ and subsequently ‘suggest or impose a limit to
proposal, it is unclear how he envisions the necessity of “protecting the autonomy of the sciences” and that of “imposing a limit to their research” are supposed to work together.
The third prerequisite of Ramadan’s ethical reference concerns his suggestion that the afore-mentioned collaborative approach must be supported by efforts from modern-day text scholars to specialize in at least one field from the many areas of the sciences (e.g., experimental, medicine, economics, psychology, sociology, and the like).
The reason for this requirement is not clear; not much can be discerned from the scholar’s statement that ‘… the specialization of fuqaha’ clearly appears to be the condition required for applied ethics to be efficient in the various fields just mentioned’ (Ramadan, 2009. p.121). However, it is possible to speculate that this prerequisite seems to be based on his belief that ‘it is impossible to be faithful to Islamic ethics applied to the whole range of sciences without possessing a large mastery of those disciplines' (Ramadan, 2009, p.110), in addition to realizing that it is now impossible for a single text scholar to master such a wide range of knowledge and skills.
Ultimately, one may be tempted to presume that the scholar envisages the final task of ‘legislating’ this Islamic ethical reference – after having been elaborated by text scholars and context scholars on an equal footing at the procedural stage - as falling exclusively on the text scholars.
To demonstrate the practical use of this collaborative approach, Ramadan (2009) hypothetically discusses the issue of abortion and provides a way for both religious scholars and scientists to meet on common ground. Muslim theologians generally uphold the prohibition of performing abortion due to the conviction that it is tantamount to disposing a human being’s life, particularly beyond the first four months of gestation.
the protection of the mother’s life. However, through the collaborative work between theologians and scientists, it is possible to draw upon the expertise of the latter to identify how and at what point abortion becomes crucial, even if such decision means ending the baby’s life. One reasonable way to achieve this, according to Ramadan, is to extend the range of exceptions to the rule, such as considering the mother’s physical and mental health, development, autonomy, welfare, education, and dignity as well as the potential condition of the preborn baby, all of which he appears to consider as “Shariaderived” objectives (despite not appearing distinctively “Islamic”) (Ramadan, 2009).
Returning to Ramadan’s core idea of formulating an “ethical reference”, he argues that ‘adding objectives [an approach favored by scholars such as al-Ghazali, Ibn Ashur, al-Alwani, and al-Qaradawi] to the existing list [the existing five elements of maqāṣid al-Sharī’a discussed in Chapter 5.2.2] is not enough, but that we should reconsider their source, their origin, and thereby their categorization and formulation’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.136). As can be observed, the use of maqāṣid al-sharī’a here adds a significant amount of flexibility into the transformative reformist approach; Kamali notes: ‘… the maqasid integrates a degree of comprehension and versatility into the reading of the Shari’ah that is in many ways unique and rides above the vicissitudes of time and circumstance’ (Kamali, 2008, p.24). Ramadan’s proposition for the restructuring of the objectives of Sharia requires a two-stage approach: First, understanding the principles of the elaboration of ethics and its subsumed objectives, and second, conducting a multidimensional process of applied ijtihād (critical autonomous reasoning) (Ramadan, 2009).
elaboration is broadly driven by two perspectives that constitute the ultimate purpose and objective of Sharia: Protection of al-dīn (global conception of life and death), and protection of al-maṣlaḥa (the common good and interest) (Ramadan, 2009). These two perspectives are founded by three a priori goals: Protection of life, protection of nature, and protection of peace (Ramadan, 2009). Subsumed under these three goals are thirteen general objectives that relate directly to mankind’s being and action at both the individual and social levels, such as protection of dignity, protection of welfare, protection of knowledge, protection of creativity, protection of autonomy, protection of development, protection of equality, protection of freedom, protection of justice, protection of fraternity, protection of love, protection of solidarity, and protection of diversity (Ramadan, 2009). To further refine these general objectives, Ramadan (2009) categorizes them into three levels, within each of which are several more specific goals.
The first level - the inner being - comprises six components: Education of the heart and mind, conscience (of being and responsibility), sincerity, contemplation, balance (intimate and personal stability), and humility (Ramadan, 2009). The second level - the outer being - consists of nine elements: Physical integrity, health, subsistence, intelligence, progeny, work, belongings, contracts, and neighborhood (Ramadan, 2009).
The third level - the being in a societal context - contains eight constituents: Rule of law, independence, deliberation, pluralism, evolution (the constant process of change in human societies), cultures, religions, and memories (Ramadan, 2009). Observably, these complex perspectives, goals, and objectives do not appear to be distinctively “Islamic” (yet again); their generic nature, rather, agrees with Ramadan’s universalistic approach discussed in the previous chapter on shahāda.